Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ian Hunter & The Rant Band: Hunter and Cleveland Both Still Rock (Mightily)

At 73 years of age, Ian Hunter rocks as much as he did in '73. Cleveland? It still rocks - mightily. Thursday night, the Beachland Ballroom was sold out, the crowd was incredible, and Hunter and his crack band delivered the goods in spades.

Touring in support of his highly lauded new album, When I'm President, Hunter shows no sign of slowing down a step, in fact, he seemed more animated, and rocked harder than he's rocked in ages. Mark Bosch has stepped up and is tossing off massive shards of electrifying lead guitar, and if there was anything right in the world, Hunter would own the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Hunter has never been content with playing his greatest hits, and doing the oldies act - he played half the new album, a good sampling of his last decade with The Rant Band, selections from the years with Mick Ronson, and of course, the classic Mott The Hoople material.

Not to throw a wrench in the works, but I must say that the sound at The Beachland Ballroom was absolutely the worst I have  ever heard. It was much louder than it needed be, and I could not find a place in the room in which the band's amazing performance was not turned into a indecipherable mess of noise. I could stick my fingers in my ears and reduce the din to a listenable level, but that's no way to enjoy a rock show - kudos to Hunter and his band for remaining entirely professional and soldiering on with great spirit. I spoke with the venue's manager on the way out, and he blamed Hunter's sound man. He said his sound guy knows the room like the back of his hand, and never has an issue. The sound was as bad as I have heard in 40 years of shows - however, Hunter & The Rant Band were perfect.

Ian Hunter seems to be getting younger. He looked great, sang great, and played great guitar and piano. The new tunes all sounded fantastic, especially the bluesy Black Tears, which features Bosch playing some wonderfully melodic guitar, and not to be outdone, James Mastro contributes some slide playing that elevates the song to sheer majesty. Mastro and Bosch  also contribute some lovely background vocals that evoke bold memories of The Hooples. The Rant Band is one of the finest troupes out there, and they are getting better with every tour. On this night, they were electric.

As I stated some weeks ago when I reviewed When I'm President, Mark Bosch has entered the league of Hunter/Hoople lead guitarists who are considered the greats. He seems to have found his own voice after several albums and tours with Hunter, and he was on fire in Cleveland. He plays all the great parts originally played by the Micks (Ralphs and Ronson), Ariel Bender, and Andy York, yet still manages to throw in an encyclopedia of great fills, slurs, solos, and chords that are his own.

The Rant Band has blossomed into as good a band as a guy could hope to have. I wished they worked together more often, but the time are changing, and I understand that between the economy and Hunter's unwillingness to endure endless inconvenience for questionable returns makes more roadwork unlikely. It's just a shame that more cities can't see such an amazing band doing such amazing shows.

Ian Hunter is amazing. At 73 he is as vital as he was in '73. I've said this again and again, and I'm sure I'll keep saying it. Rock has never had a better spokesman, and he's got my vote. The Rand Band? They'll make a helluva good cabinet. And Cleveland? You still rock - mightily.

  1. (John Lennon cover) (Finish with Dylan's Roll On John)
  2. (Lou Reed cover)
  3. Encore:


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